Category Archives: Indie Author Appreciation Day
Let Me Tell You All a Story ’bout a Man Named Gregg…
A long time ago and half a world away, I went to high school with a wiry, unassuming guy with big glasses. I knew he ran on the cross-country team; his pictures were in the yearbook. We had a few classes in common, so I also knew he had — was — a big brain. But I had no idea then that that brain behind those glasses could go on to be the undiscovered comic genius of our generation.
I don’t throw that word “genius” around irresponsibly. Gregg can make mercy-killing, male prostitution and even terrorism FUNNY. And boy, do we need some laughs right now.
Gregg Fedchak and I barely knew each other back in high school, so if anything is to blame for our long-distance collaboration, it’s Facebook. Out of the blue, Gregg sent me my very first friend request after I finally — resistance was futile — jumped into social media. I learned he was an author and artist, like me. I learned that, over the years, Gregg had scored two New York literary agents, and that his five novels (which I soon devoured) had been published by a small press. And why not? His prose is frantic, every sentence a gift to readers’ funny bones and intellects, every chapter a scene worthy of Vonnegut, Heller, Wodehouse and Monty Python, every book a complete story that leaves you chuckling nervously for days, scared to death of your neighbors.
But then, two or three years ago, Gregg’s publisher went out of business and his novels fell out of print.
To me, that was an American tragedy! I immediately started pestering him into becoming an indie author — something he knew little about and valiantly resisted. But I wore him down — resistance was futile — and talked him into letting me format and make new covers for the first three of his novels, into getting them back on the market so new readers could discover for themselves what I love so much about them. And now the e-books are up on Amazon — soon to be followed by the other venues, eventually by the paperback versions. It really has been a labor of love: a love of literature, a love of wiry guys with big glasses and bigger brains, a love of writers who just think funny, like me.
I really, really wish I were famous, today, so my championing of his work could make it famous. But I’m not, and this is the best I can do. Please check out the new editions of The Broccoli Eaters, Bad Apple Jack, and Love Among the Tomatoes — the first three novels by this unassuming, unsung hero of American literature. As I write in his bio: “Gregg’s home-grown, organic American humor is smart, sexy and absurd. Sometimes disturbing, always snort-worthy, his novels lovingly spoof a postmodern America of baffled Baby Boomers and their ill-conceived spawn.”
And with all those fruits and vegetables, they’ve just GOT to be good for you. Enjoy!
DEAR READERS, WRITERS, and people who stumbled upon this blog because of its most popular post ever (“You Can’t Shave a Vagina”):
I am proud to be an Indie Author, and Indie Pride Day is July 1st. What happens on Indie Pride Day? Look, I made a pretty poster to tell you all about it, and there are no vaginas in sight:
A friend asked me today: what is an Indie Author? My definition of an Indie Author is either a self-published author (one who publishes directly, through Amazon and other online outlets), or an author who publishes through a small “independent” publishing house.
Indies are the folks who refuse to submit query after query for months or years to try to get a literary agent. Having an agent is a necessity if you want a book to even be considered by an editor at the big publishing houses.
Here’s a rough timeline of the way publishing used to work for most authors, when it did work, before indie publishing. It still works this way for the vast majority of authors who don’t want to be indies:
- Author writes book (3 months to 10 years).
- Author queries agents (could take years to get one, or never, no matter how good your book is, since agents only accept books that they like and that they think they can sell to publishers — whose customers are actually bookstores, not readers).
- Author gets agent (woo-hoo!) or doesn’t (boo-hoo!)
- Lucky Author spends book’s imagined first six month’s royalties on big party! (This is just a guess. It’s what I would do. I would hire a pony and a bouncy castle and Kylie Minogue to sing her old “Lucky” song, but no clowns. Sure, I have issues about never having a real birthday party as a kid. How did you guess?) Unlucky Author repeats steps 1 and 2 until the end of time.
- Agent sends out feelers to publishers on Lucky Author’s behalf (could also take years, with no guarantee of success, and involves sending out a few chapters, waiting months, sending out full manuscript, waiting more months…)
- Lucky Author gets publishing contract (which probably gives at most 25% of sales price as royalties to Author, and contains clauses that effectively turn Author into an indentured servant of the publisher).* Unlucky Author repeats steps 1-5 until the end of time.
- Lucky Author waits another year or more for book to come out, and has virtually NO SAY in what the cover looks like or even what the final title of the book will be.
- Publisher doesn’t promote it.
- Book dies death of old age and neglect.
- Agent, who got 15% of Author’s advance and then nothing, refuses to answer Author’s calls, emails, text messages, and threats written in blood on sidewalk in front of Agent’s house.
- Restraining order.
- What happens in prison stays in prison, until Lucky Author writes memoir and repeats steps 1-12. Unlucky Author dies in prison.
It’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of authors — fabulous, good, mediocre, bad and horrible horrible horrible authors — have jumped at the chance to publish directly and let customers decide whether or not they like a book. I can’t think of another industry where entrepreneurship is so looked down upon. Say you are a fabulous (or horrible horrible horrible) cook. You are free to open up a restaurant anywhere you want, and your patrons will decide if your food is good.
Many Indies have found that books they cooked up, books that were rejected for years by agents and publishers, are being gobbled up by readers. Some of those books have become bestsellers and are even being made into feature films. Others struggle to get a foothold and to make even a few sales. Sure, Indie publishing is hard and not for the faint of heart and if you want to succeed, having a good book is not enough — you have to pull up your big girl panties and market the sucker. And you have to publish another book. And another. And market those suckers, too.
As for me, I’m still shopping for those big girl panties. I truly believe that someday I will be an Indie With Undies.
So for Indie Pride Day, I hope you Indies With Undies out there will do what it says on the poster. And as for you readers: Do you have a favorite Indie-published book? Then please take a pic of yourself holding it up, and post it with pride on social media on July 1st, with the hashtag #IndieBooksBeSeen.
Clothing is NOT optional.
As for the rest of you, I’m pretty sure you’re gone by now or have jumped directly to learning why you can’t shave a vagina. And I hope you’re proud of yourselves.
* In all seriousness, do check out this post on the subject by bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith.
Last Indie Author Appreciation Day I brought you horror writer extraordinaire, Harvey Click. Today, I’m in the mood for something (someone?) substantially less… gory.
Introducing Lynda Wilcox, author of the Verity Long Mysteries — charming books to cozy up to in the wee hours, while the hubby’s sonorous snoring, once so endearing, now brings thoughts of murder to mind. Thank goodness you have a murder to solve, and not to perpetrate!
For those of you who don’t know, a “cozy” is a mystery in which the crime is solved by someone other than the police, the FBI, or even a private investigator — a private citizen with a tendency to trip over bodies, and a keen eye for the facts. In some cases, it’s an old lady who could out-sleuth the pros with two knitting needles tied behind her back. (Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, the ultimate cozy crime solver, for example.) In the Verity Long Mysteries, our heroine (um, Verity Long!) is no grey-haired old lady; she’s the young personal assistant to a famous mystery writer. Here’s the book description for Lynda Wilcox’s first book in the series, Strictly Murder:
The estate agent’s details listed two reception rooms, kitchen and bath. What they failed to mention was the dead celebrity in the master bedroom. Personal assistant Verity Long’s house hunt is about to turn into a hunt for a killer. It will take some fancy footwork to navigate the bitchy world of dance shows, television studios, and dangerously gorgeous male co-stars. When Verity looks like the killer’s next tango partner, she discovers that this dance is … Strictly Murder.
If you’re in the mood for quick-stepping murder, try Strictly Murder. At $ .99, it’s a decision you will not soon regret. Which can’t be said for smothering that snoring husband of yours. You know you’ll get caught. So put down that pillow. I said put down that pillow!
And pick up Strictly Murder, today.
Creepy. Crawly. Slightly surreal. Did I mention creepy?
Top of my “Ta-Da” list is to reread this novel, and then to review it. It’s been a couple of months since the first time I read it, and I could use a good spine-tingler right now.
A creepy, crawly, slightly surreal spine tingler.
It occurred to me that there might be other readers out there who’d appreciate Harvey’s fingers crawling up their spines. So I contacted him, and he gave me permission to post the first two chapters here.
He’s a good egg. A creepy, crawly, slightly surreal, spine-tinglingly good egg.
All the best eggs… are slightly cracked.
The Bad Box
by Harvey Click
The lid of the bad box shut. Cold darkness.
Angel knew how to escape the darkness. There was a tunnel she had found, a long, narrow, cold burrow in the dirt. All she had to do was wiggle through it like a worm, and before long she emerged from a secret hole beneath the bushes beside the old grade school.
She crawled out from the bushes into the bright sun and brushed the dirt off her knees and dress. It was a beautiful day but chilly, the kind of chill the sun didn’t penetrate. She needed a sweater.
She walked slowly from the big grassy schoolyard to the gravel playground. No need to run or hurry—she knew there would be plenty of time to play, more time than she wanted, but she didn’t think about that.
There were no other children; there never were. Angel didn’t miss them, but she hoped her friend would visit. Maybe he was hidden behind a tree, playing hide and seek with her. He liked to play games.
She sat in a swing, grasped the cold chains, leaned back her head, and gazed at a fat white cloud. She began to swing, and soon she was sailing in a high arc, the sky and trees blurring together.
The motion was soothing, and it helped her not to think, but she was chilly and wanted to go home, not to Grandpa and Grandma but to Mom and Dad, but she knew she couldn’t go home to them ever again, not since their accident. In fact she couldn’t go anywhere, but she tried not to think about that, tried not to think about anything but the motion of the swing, up and down, down and up, up into the cold blue sky.
Angel started to tell herself a story about Hansel and Gretel and their breadcrumb trail as they wandered lost through the dark woods, but the story made no sense. Why would they leave Mom and Dad to go live with a mean old witch? And why would they waste all that bread? Her tummy ached, and if she were Gretel she would eat the bread instead of spilling it on the forest floor for the stupid birds to eat. The story was right about the mean old witch, but why did it leave out the ogre?
No, it was a stupid story, and Angel didn’t like to think of the cage that the witch put them in, and she didn’t like to think of Hansel because he reminded her of her little brother, and she didn’t want to think about her little brother because he was a bad, bad boy, and it was a stupid story, though she liked the part when the children shoved the witch into the oven, and she thought I’d shove the mean old ogre in there too, but first I’d chop off their heads and then I’d stick their bodies in the oven and cook them up, but I’d keep their heads just so I could look at them and say, “So there! So there!”
Angel shivered. The air on her back felt like cold rain, though the sky was a perfect storybook blue.
She didn’t know how long he had been sitting there. She had been swinging and shivering and thinking of the witch and the ogre and what she would do with their heads, and when she looked he was sitting in the swing next to hers. Appearing like that was one of his games. She was delighted, but she tried not to show it.
“Hi, Angel,” he said, his voice whispery like dry leaves.
She continued swinging, aware of him watching her but pretending she didn’t care. He was a handsome man, big and strong, older than her father had been when he’d had his accident, but somehow more like a kid.
She didn’t know his real name. She called him Baby Beddybye because he reminded her of a doll she had once owned with that name. His head was bald like the doll’s, and his eyes were black and shiny like polished stones.
“Going to ignore me today?” Baby Beddybye asked.
Angel smiled but didn’t answer. She swung a little higher and leaned her head back, letting her long blond hair stream out behind her like a kite tail. She knew that Baby Beddybye liked her hair.
“Aren’t we friends?” he asked.
“Maybe.” Angel kept swinging, staring at the sky and hoping that he was noticing her pretty hair.
“Maybe I’m your only friend,” he said.
Angel tried to remember the friends she used to have, but that seemed so long ago, before the accident.
“Maybe,” she said at last.
“Are you cold?” he asked.
“Here.” Baby Beddybye took off his jacket. “Since we’re friends.”
Angel stopped swinging. It was a nice dark gray suit jacket like Daddy used to wear when he got dressed up.
“Go ahead,” he said. “It doesn’t have any cooties.”
Angel smiled and put it on. That felt better, warm and cozy. It was as big as a dress on her, and she wrapped it around herself like a blanket and snuggled into its warmth. It gave her a funny feeling, tingly and secretive, like a tent you could hide under and no one would ever find you.
“It’s a very special jacket,” Baby Beddybye said. “It’s a secret jacket.”
“A secret jacket?”
“Yes. It’s a secret just between you and me. Friends share secrets, don’t they?”
“I guess so.”
Angel began to swing again, warm in her comfy jacket, her hair streaming out behind her. She thought of the witch and the ogre, how she would hide in her secret jacket and sneak up on them and cut off their heads and shove their headless bodies into the blazing oven.
“So there!” she would say.
“I know one of your secrets,” Baby Beddybye whispered.
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about an ogre and a witch.”
“Sure you are. You’re thinking of what you’d like to do to them.”
Angel stopped swinging. Such a smart man, she thought.
“Now you haveta tell me a secret,” she said, “since you know mine.”
“I will, if you promise you’ll always be my friend.”
“Forever and ever” he said. “You have to swear.”
“I swear, cross my heart and hope to die.”
Baby Beddybye smiled. “Okay then. Now listen very, very carefully.”
Eva Dietrick stared out the kitchen window across the wide weedy yard at the barn nearly hidden by relentless rain. It had rained like that all day as if it meant to wash the whole farm into a ditch, where it could run all the way to hell for all she cared.
It had been dark all day, but now the deeper dark meant night was coming, and the old fool was still out there. For many years she had regretted that she couldn’t see what Gus did out there in the barn. It certainly wasn’t work, because if the stupid old fool ever lifted a finger except to stick it up his nose, the yard wouldn’t be growing weeds and the barn wouldn’t be falling down and the bills from the grain elevator wouldn’t be piling up like leaves in fall.
“Narr!” she muttered out loud, turning her wheelchair so she could see if the old fool was loitering in front of the barn, too stupid to come in out of the rain, but he wasn’t. He was still inside the barn, where he had been the whole wasted day since noon, when he had gummed down his chopped bacon and beans and potatoes with his wad of wet tobacco beside his plate staining the kitchen table as always.
Eva had a hunch about what he did out there, more than a hunch, a hard suspicion, but it wasn’t her responsibility, and what was she supposed to do about it anyway, stuck in a chair like a bag of sand in a wheelbarrow?
“Dummkopf!” she growled, jerking her chair to face the table, where Gus’s supper sat cold and could rot with maggots for all she cared. She had already eaten her own supper, and a lot more pleasant it was without his wet wad on the table and his hand going down to the crotch of his overalls to scratch whatever itched down there.
At the thought, her own hand shot up to her scalp and her nails dug deep into the skin. Sometimes it seemed as if worms were crawling on her scalp and every other inch of her carcass. Eva despised her body, despised all bodies, filthy itching things racked with pains and obscene needs of their own, too disgusting to consider.
Let his food rot if he didn’t want to come in and eat it. But she turned back to the window, as she had been doing all day, and stared out at the rain.
Dark now, dark as death. Something was wrong. She had known it all afternoon. Furcht. Sorge. Fallen from the haymow. Trampled by a heifer. Impaled by his own manure fork—a fitting end.
But who would take care of her? How was she supposed to get by, helpless like a bag of sand in a wheelbarrow?
Eva pushed herself to the hutch, found the thin phone book, and rang the sheriff’s office.
“I need help,” she said. “Gus has been out there all day, he’s not coming back.”
“Who is this?”
“Eva!” she shouted. “Eva Dietrick. Mir helfen!”
“Sorry. Could you repeat that?”
“Do you not speak English?” she shouted. “I told you. What am I expected to do? A bag of sand in a wheelbarrow. Should I put myself to bed? I tell you, I haven’t been to toilet since noon!”
“Please, could you just give me your address?”
“Furcht! Sorge! Schmerz! Can you not hear me?”
Deputy Joe Miley and Deputy Doug Brown found Gus’s body in the barn collapsed over a bale of hay. Joe called for an ambulance, though a hearse would work just as well. They were young men, and neither of them had ever given news like this to a wife before. Finally Joe agreed to do it because he was three years older and a bit more experienced.
“Didn’t I say?” Eva said. She glared darkly at Joe Miley. Stupid! she thought. What they tell me already I know.
She was in her bedroom, already mostly packed but still finding a thing or two worth keeping, a few letters in German from someone she had known long before she met Gus, an old pair of galoshes that would be useful if she ever walked again, a broken necklace that might be worth something, though she doubted it since it had been a gift from Gus.
“Now I am expected to do what?” she asked. “Is this house something I can live in now?”
Eva poked through a dresser drawer, found a coin and peered at it. It seemed to be made of tin, some trash from the old country, but maybe someone would buy it. She stuck it in her pocket.
“Somewhere else I have to go,” she said.
“Well, there’s County Services,” Joe Miley said. “We can take you there.”
“I don’t know this County Services, but here I will not stay. I haven’t been to toilet since noon!”
The two young men looked at each other.
“You’re older,” Deputy Brown whispered to his partner.
“Maybe she better go in the ambulance,” Joe whispered. “You know, so there’s not a mess in the back seat.”
Eva latched her trunk, and Joe carried it to the dining room while Deputy Brown pushed her chair behind him. They looked out the open door, waiting for the ambulance. The rain was even harder now, battering the weeds flat and bouncing off the ground like balls.
Eva stared out at the bouncing rain and thought that maybe she was forgetting something. A bolt of lightning struck a withered tree along the fence row of a field, and the explosion jarred her memory.
Bouncing balls, she thought. Stupid games for stupid children. Das Kind.
“Das Kind is down there,” Eva said. “Das Kind is in the bad box.”
The young men looked at each other. “What did you say?” Joe asked.
“Can you not hear me?” she shouted above the noise of the rain. “I told you. Do you not speak English? The stupid child is in the bad box!”
Annoyed by the two men, Eva scratched angrily at her greasy scalp. She could feel tiny worms crawling through her hair, burrowing through the skin and bone, digging into her brain.
Filthy worms, filthy carcass, filthy world!
Indie Author Appreciation Day again, already? Yup.
Look what I found! (That should probably be “who”, but who cares?) It’s:
The Improbable Author: Thomas A. Mays.
Whew! Sorry for the delay in posting my RavenCon report here, but I was so blasted with ideas and advice, I had to get some of it out as actual writing before it vanished like the play-by-play of a dream. Now, however, with a thoroughly re-written and re-submitted short story complete, and plans upon plans for more SciFi-ish goodness to come, I can now relax and tell you about my first science fiction convention.
Two things stand out.
First, these are awesome people and I’ve been missing out. It is FANTASTIC that the nerds and geeks among us have the opportunities to gather together to achieve a critical mass (not a fat pun) and then explode outward into a multifaceted mushroom cloud of fandom without reservations.
Second, I’m afraid I’m not awesome enough of a fan to cast aside all inhibitions and revel in it to the n-th degree. In…
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It’s Indie Author Appreciation Day! (Yes, I just made that up.) Today, I’m appreciating Mark Capell, author of Cafe Insomniac and much, much more, including this guest post:
Will Audiobooks Change Writing Styles?
by Mark Capell
Recently, Audible.com brokered a deal with the author David Hewson to publish his latest book, Flood, well ahead of its print run. As audiobooks rise in popularity, will the way they’re written change?
As David pointed out, audio “is the original form of storytelling. It’s what Homer did. Homer was not a writer, he was a storyteller”. I’ve always had a fondness for aural storytelling. I once met one of the few traditional storytellers still working the pubs in the UK, in the old folk tradition. He was such a vibrant performer, living the story he was telling, sometimes veering off into the melodramatic, but always finding a way to convey his enthusiasm. I asked him if he’d ever considered writing a book. He looked at me astonished. “Why would I want to do that?”
I listen to as many audiobooks as I read print or ebooks. Sometimes it’s just more practical; while out for a walk, on a crowded train, or in a car.
But over the years, I’ve noticed something. Some writing styles are more suited to audio than others.
When I wrote the first story of Fogland, a series being released as a set of podcasts, I was writing specifically for audio.
I thought long and hard about it. At college, my first love was the theatre. I was obsessed by the rhythms of dialogue. I would read the plays of Harold Pinter obsessively, along with David Mamet and Tom Stoppard.
The “Pinteresque pause” has become a theatrical cliché. But these pauses are not empty silences, they are surrounded by dialogue that, even when the actor has finished speaking it, resounds like an echo within those pauses. In other words, the pauses are infused with meaning.
All writing should pay attention to the sound of words as well as their meaning, that’s a given. In fact, one musical element — rhythm — can add meaning and atmosphere on its own. Short sentences, for instance, can imbue a sense of urgency. Thriller writers are well aware of this technique.
But in audio it’s even more important. Some of the rhythm is down to the narrator. I was listening to one audiobook recently, one by a famous author. But the actor reading it, also suitably famous, sounded like he had a train to catch. The delivery was hurried, the sentences not differentiated one from another. This famous actor could have done with a few lessons from my storyteller in the pub.
In many ways, the audio presentation starts with the manuscript, begins with the source material. The author might be having more of an effect on the audio production than he realises.
The more audiobooks I listen to the more I become convinced that writing good audio stories is a different skill from writing good print ones. Even breaking important rules of grammar can become a necessity, not a stylistic choice.
At the moment, stories are written for print then recorded for audiobook, almost as an afterthought. I think this attitude might go back to their roots, originally being recorded mainly as a concession to the visually impaired. But there’s no reason that a story written for one medium is suitable for another without adaptation.
Sometimes I’ve found myself drifting when listening to an audiobook, something I rarely do when reading. And it’s not connected to what I’m doing while listening to it.
I think it is a matter of writing style. A sparse writing style seems to work better. Too much happening in a sentence can clog up the ears.
But that doesn’t mean a writer is compelled to make the storytelling simplistic. To make up for the limitations of a sparse style, you have to make each word work twice as hard.
In writing for audio, it’s not only what is being said but what is being left unsaid. The way to do this, as any dramatist will tell you, is with subtext. Like a good dramatist, you should make full use of subtext. Where you might be explicit about a situation in print, leaving room for a listener’s imagination is important in audio.
I think this advice from Ernest Hemingway is particularly pertinent when it comes to writing for audio.
“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”